Max Verstappen celebrates at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Sunday. Picture: MARK THOMPSON/GETTY IMAGES
Max Verstappen celebrates at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Sunday. Picture: MARK THOMPSON/GETTY IMAGES

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a huge stride towards a first Formula One title on Sunday by winning the Mexico City Grand Prix with a start that showed all his bravery, skill and aggression.

With four races remaining, the 24-year-old Dutch driver surged 19 points clear of Mercedes seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.  

Running three abreast on the long run down to the first corner, Verstappen displayed precision and nerves of steel as he braked late and took the two Mercedes cars around the outside to seize the lead.

“I knew the start was going to be really important and we went three wide towards turn one and it was all about who was going to brake the latest,”  said Verstappen, who started third on the grid.

“Basically that made my race because after that I could just do my own pace and control it from there.

“There was not much they could do. They were already side by side and I just went three wide,”  said Verstappen, who now has nine wins for the season to Hamilton’s five.

He took the chequered flag a hefty 16.555sec clear of Hamilton, who was only 1.197sec ahead of Red Bull’s local hero Sergio Perez and might have lost a place had they gone another lap.

The points haul left resurgent Red Bull just one point behind defending champions Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. They would have been equal had Valtteri Bottas not snatched the fastest lap from Verstappen right at the end, denying Red Bull the bonus point.

“Today’s been a massive day, a fantastic drive by Max. The most important part was the start. He nailed the start,” team boss Christian Horner said. “I thought Max had missed his braking because he was so late on the brakes at turn one but he made it stick and from there really controlled the race. It was a very straightforward race for him.”

Despite the points gain, Verstappen was still refusing to get carried away. “There is a long way to go. It’s of course looking good but also it can turn around very quickly but I’m looking forward to Brazil [the next race],” he said. “I have also very good memories there.”

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes was no match for Verstappen’s Red Bull after his dream of a record eighth Formula One championship slipped further from his grasp. The 36-year-old Briton started on the front row of the grid, only for his hopes of victory to be dashed in the opening seconds as Verstappen seized the lead and then pulled away to win.

“Their car was far superior this weekend and there was nothing we really could do about it,” Hamilton said. He gave all he had, holding off Red Bull’s Perez at the finish with the Mexican chasing a team one-two, the champion said.

Giving everything was still not enough, however, on a day when teammate Bottas started on pole position but was hit and spun on the opening lap, ending up out of the points.

Verstappen has now won nine races to Hamilton’s five and the next, in Brazil, should also play to his car’s strengths before three final races in the Middle East.

Reuters 

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